Wise words from Sylvia Ashton-Warner

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So, how does creative and continuous writing start?

I am reading this great book called ‘Teacher’ written by Sylvia Ashton-Warner which highlights her teaching of Moari kids in New Zealand in the 1960s. The facts are, how do you teach kids who have different upbringings and only know one way of life? You teach them ‘organic teaching’. You bring their inner feelings and stories to the fore. I hope this passage below gives you an insight into how a teacher can get too attached to lesson plans and teaching books while forgetting the reality of the classroom with the students and their own history.

I hope this passage below gives you an insight into how a teacher can get too attached to lesson plans and teaching books while forgetting the reality of the classroom with the students and their own history. I feel this can be very inspirational to teachers.

The passage starts with Sylvia getting the students to write……Yet there are times when one cannot start. He’s just plain not in the mood. You can’t always say an important thing because it is the time to say it. Sometimes he will say candidly, “I don’t want to write,” and that’s just what you get him to write: “I don’t want to write”. From there you ask, “Why?” and here comes an account of some grievance or objection which, after all, just as well as any other idea, delivers his mind of what is on it, practices his composition, and wraps him up in what is of interest to himself. You never want to say that it’s good or bad. That’s got nothing to do with it. You’ve got no right at all to criticise the content of another’s mind. A child doesn’t make his own mind. It’s just there. Your job is to see what’s in it. Your allowable comment is one of natural interest in what he is writing. As in conversation. And I never mark their books in any way; never cross out anything beyond helping them to rub out a mistake, never put a tick or a stamp on it and never complain about bad writing. Do we complain about a friend’s writing in a story-felt letter?

The attention is on the content. What I feel about their work has nothing to do with it. The thing is for them to write what is on their minds and if they do or do not accomplish that, it is you who are good or bad. From the teacher’s end, it boils down to whether or not she is a good conversationalist; whether or not she has the gift or the wisdom to listen to another; the ability to draw out and preserve that other’s line of thought. Which refers to the nature of the teacher. The best juniors I had on this work were the modest, self-effacing kind, while the worst of them was a very clever girl who was an insatiable talker and who in her personal life talked everyone else to pieces on the subject of herself (Ashton-Warner, 1963: 58).

(461 Words)

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